City says it is going ahead but will assess the fence route and meet the community
Property owners and residents are objecting to the erection of a R1.6 million fence around Wynberg Park. Residents of 58th Avenue have written to Councillor Elizabeth Brunette of Ward 62.
Residents said in a letter: “The second largest park in the city, more wood than park, much of the attraction and charm of Wynberg Park stems from its rambling openness and the fact that it can be accessed from all sides. In a city from which so many are excluded, it seems an inappropriate and insensitive measure to close off access to a public space like this.”
The objectors to the fence say no assessments had been conducted to determine its impact; no alternative strategies had been explored to resolve the problems that the fence seeks to address; no public participation or consultation was undertaken in reaching the decision to erect the fence.
They said they understood from a meeting with Brunette on 1 November that the fence was being erected to counter “problems of vagrancy”, vandalism at the ablution blocks, theft of plants and other city property, including taps and water pipes, crime and antisocial behaviour.
Miriam Wheeldon, on behalf of residents, wrote: “Key users of the park who will be affected by the enclosure of the park include the many residents of greater Cape Town who drive to the park on the weekends. Anyone familiar with the park can attest to the number of people who arrive by car from other suburbs bearing tables, deck chairs, tents, and braais to set up picnic for the day, particularly on weekends and public holidays. With open access, these visitors park on the roads and in the parking areas around the park, including the length of our street, from whence they are able to enter the park directly.”
“Our experience of the park as residents that live on it is of a fully functional, safe, clean, and beautiful and well organized open space. We are not aware of serious crime and other anti-social issues but if the fence is being erected to resolve these problems we consider it an irrational and exorbitant response that will not resolve but exacerbate them. There appear to be many other suitable strategies to resolve these problems in the park, the employment of more wardens being an obvious one,” she wrote.
Dinesh Isaacs, facility manager for the park, responded by email saying the fence was part of a master plan for City Parks formulated in 2014. “Wynberg Park is faced with numerous safety and security related issues which have threatened the sustainability of our efforts.”
Isaacs said a year ago Park Rangers with the necessary training and expertise had been deployed and were effective, but at an unsustainable cost. The park is 23 hectares and “preventing incidents at night has been an impossible task as people are able to access the site from every possible angle and they have the added advantage of large tracts of vegetation and darkness to conceal their actions”.
Isaac said the City was “under no delusion that the fence would resolve all the issues” but was part of an integrated response that would include maintenance crew stationed at various points, managing overgrown vegetation, reducing the number of unused areas by encouraging activity with pathways, play equipment and picnic tables, installing lighting and deploying park rangers or security.
The City of Cape Town’s Mayoral Committee Member for Area South Councillor Eddie Andrews said, “We have put a lot of thought into the route, placement and the location of access points to ensure that public use and enjoyment of the site is not compromised. The fence material is visually permeable and will have a very little negative aesthetic impact on the landscape.”
Andrews said, “The first phase of the fencing, which is primarily along Trovato Link and Klaasens Roads, is nearly complete … The next phase planned during the 2018/2019 financial year.”
He said the City’s Recreation and Parks Department would consider residents’ objections and was “currently assessing alternative fencing routes which may be more favourable for everyone concerned. Once assessed, the City will meet with residents again to present these options”.